Located on a quiet road just a couple blocks away from the center of town, Pit Stop BBQ Wakefield is the new incarnation of CnDs BBQ, which was not one of my favorite joints. Searching for signs of improvement as I opened the car door in the the tiny parking lot to the right of the building, one big difference hit me: the sweet smell of burning wood. As it turned out, it's the same grill, visible as you walk in—there's still no smoker used for the ribs and pulled pork, but the whole chickens ($25 Saturday special with 4 sides; must be ordered 48 hours in advance) are indeed smoked. An undeniable improvement is the addition of three small tables by the window to what is essentially an over-the-counter takeout operation.
The barbecue section of the menu is limited to ribs, pulled pork and BBQ chicken. There's also grilled chicken, fried chicken, chicken tenders, chicken kebabs, chicken wings, chicken sandwiches and wraps, pork tips, steak tips, 8-ounce cheeseburgers and stuffed 10-ounce burgers, veggie burgers, hotdogs, grilled cheese sandwiches and grilled sausage. A mixed green salad can be had with or without meat. At the end of Summer 2012, they started serving breakfasts on weekends.
I visited on two Saturday afternoons three weeks apart. The first was for a takeout order that I took around the corner for a few unobserved photos, then dug in while most of the food was piping hot. On the second visit I dined in.
Wings: Interestingly, wings are offered as a 7-piece order with one side ($6.95), so if that disqualifies it as an app, too bad. They're also available as individual pieces at 85 cents each. The wings are deep fried. then coated with the desired sauce. For my second visit's standard order of seven (to get the side), they had no problem splitting among Jerk and Honey BBQ. The about-average-sized wings arrived hot, crisp and colorful. Flavor came mostly from the sauces and mostly underwhelmed. The honey barbecue was very mild; the jerk was an unusual thyme-heavy paste that had an immediate herbal quality that eventually gave way to the delayed heat.
Pulled pork: Served on a fresh and shiny brioche bun, the pulled pork sandwich ($7.99) arrived heated to the point where it was difficult to pick it up without burning my hands. After a few minute wait, I dug in and found the pork very much like turkey breast in consistency, color (white), flavor (minimal) and moisture (none). The dark, bold Spicy BBQ sauce (there's a choice of three) looked like barbecue but tasted more like a full bodied marinara. It mitigated the flavor void—that is, if achieving any of the classic barbecue profiles isn't a requirement—but didn't do much to remedy the dryness. I liked the bun and liked the generosity of meat and an included side, but white, dry, bark-free and unsmoked keeps this pulled pork sandwich at the level of a local pizza shop.
Ribs: I like that you can order individual ribs at $2.50 per bone (though this isn't mentioned on the menu), so on the first visit I sprung for two to accompany my pulled pork sandwich. I watched as the ribs hit the grill for a reheat. The coating of sauce (again, three choices) added some decent flavor, but like the pulled pork, there wasn't much in the meat itself, either on the surface or deep within. There was no smoke profile; it instead bore a grill flavor reminiscent of backyard barbecues of my youth. On the plus side, the meat was much more moist and tender than the pulled pork. On the downside, the inside was cold. The overall result was the same: adequate for a pizza shop, but a disappointing for a joint with "BBQ" in its name.
Visit 2 brought fully warm ribs lathered in Spicy BBQ sauce, which tasted a little less marinara-like this time but packed a lot less punch. The all-white meat beneath was tender to an extreme, with one of the bones dropping all the meat as I picked it up. Flavor was about the same as the first try: lacking smoke and totally dependent upon the sauce.
Fried chicken: The 2-piece order ($7.99 with two sides) delivered large pieces of chicken with a thick and extremely sturdy batter that had minimal seasoning if any at all. The insides were hot and moist. Salt helped.
Three sauces are available: Regular BBQ (I passed on this one), Spicy BBQ (dark brown, thick, tomatoey, bold beyond just heat) and Honey BBQ (reddish brown, a little thinner than ketchup, sweet and mild). If they had squeeze bottles, I'd mix two parts honey with one part spicy. Something's missing across the board in these sauces, so I'd probably try to smuggle in some molasses or actual honey and add that.
Cole slaw: A vinegar version and a mayo version are both on offer. On the first visit I went with the former and found a pleasant condiment that wasn't quite integrated into the crunchy, raw-tasting cabbage. It probably would have fared better the next day after the flavors had a chance to seep in. On the follow-up, I switched to the mayo cole slaw which was an improvement. The condiment was still on the thin side, with vinegar in play and the mayo noticeable but restrained. There was a nice zip and the flavor was more entrenched into the crisp cabbage.
Baked beans: This is done in the style of a canned variety but a little less sweet. It's kicked up with onion and shredded bacon.
Mac and cheese: Mini elbows were immersed in a rich and creamy cheese sauce that hugged the middle ground between a mild children's version and a sharp adult version. This was actually one of the better mac and cheese offerings I've tried. I really liked that one of the chefs brought out a taste test to make sure I liked it before packaging it up to go.
BBQ chicken and fried chicken take 20 minutes or more to prepare, so keep this in mind if you're on a lunch hour and need to be back in a hurry.
The crew here are nice people that seem committed and eager to please.
The Bottom Line
If I were a local I'm sure I'd pop in from time to time, but Pit Stop BBQ Wakefield isn't anything close to a destination barbecue joint.
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